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Ash and Oil: April 1

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight... No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:17-22)

Working for social justice has led me to feel burdens for many causes, but there is a special place reserved in my broken heart for immigrants. Because I know a few, and their stories are so painful, and their lives are lived so geographically close to my own, it’s difficult for me to ignore. I’ve never met an immigrant who wanted to leave his or her home. The stories I’ve heard have one thing in common: necessity. He couldn’t find work, she couldn’t pay the bills, the kids weren’t getting enough to eat. And, increasingly, people are crossing borders because of environmental degradation.

Joel Simon, in the film Endangered Mexico, asked migrants leaving Oaxaca why they had left home, and the answer was the same. “Time after time I heard the same refrain, ‘porque la tierra ya no da,’--because the earth no longer gives.” Charcoal and firewood are big money-makers in that region, so the land and forest has slowly been destroyed to the point where it can’t sustain the livelihoods of the families who have lived there for generations.

These people are leaving their homes not because they want to, but because they have to. They’re moving to the place that can sustain life, as any sane person would do. The same drama is being played out around the world, and its main characters are called “environmental refugees”. As climate change continues to load the atmospheric dice for more devastating weather events around the globe, this phenomenon is only expected to accelerate.

God’s picture of shalom includes the ability for people to stay in their own land, to “build houses and inhabit them,” to “plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” It is God’s will for all of creation--including mountains, forests, and people--to flourish. This flourishing, this shalom, is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ points to: a reign of God in which death has no sting.

Pray: Reconciling God, may we remember that Jesus came to bring shalom. May the shouts of “Hosanna!” still ringing in our ears from last Sunday remind us that we are called to join with you to be bringers of that shalom. Amen.

Take the next step: As the effects of climate change become more evident, so will the numbers of environmental refugees. Pray for the people the CRCNA works with whose lifestyles must adapt to changing climates around the world. Need a reminder? Try removing a lightbulb in your house that you use often, but can live without for a week. Between now and Easter, say a prayer for environmental refugees each time you flip that switch and no light appears.

[Image: Flickr user Tico]

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